Last year as a tenth-grader at the Weston Twilight Invitational, Natanael Vigo Catala broke 50 seconds for the 400-meter run for the first time.
By season’s end this spring, the Haverhill junior is expecting a lot more in his speciality. He made that clear in his return to the popular meet on Saturday night.
“To be honest, my goal at the end of the season is to break 46 (seconds),” he said. ” I still have a lot of work to do, but that’s the goal, to break 46 (seconds),”
In defense of his crown at the 24th annual event, Vigo-Catala was on a mission from the very beginning, taking control from the cutoff point and winning convincingly with a state-leading 48.13. Finishing second was Amesbury’s Michael Sanchez at 49.43. He was just ahead of Newton North’s Quincy Scott, who secured the third spot at 49.47.
Vigo-Catala, the runner-up in the 400m at the adidas Indoor Nationals back in March, was pleased with the effort this early in the season, especially considering it’s only his second year competing in the one-lapper.
“It’s really exciting,” said the Hillies standout, who captured the 300m title at the Meet of Champions this winter. “Last year, my sophomore year, my first time running sub 50 (seconds) was at this meet. It’s good to see how much I progressed and improved.”
There was word once Vigo-Catala crossed the finish line at Weston that he had broken 48 seconds with his victory. Still, the tall and confident runner with a best of 47.67 from the adidas meet, is driven about getting to the uncharted territory with a time in the 45 to 46-second range. The current state mark is 46.71.
“The thing with me is I want to keep chasing goals. If I break one goal that I have, I just want to get another one. Every meet I just try to get better and better. That’s what drives me,” he said. “I am coming for that state record.”
Defending state champion Kylee Bernard of Cambridge Rindge & Latin looked equally impressive in taking the girls’ 400m, breaking the tape in a fast, early-season time of 56.26. Bernard was more than two seconds ahead of runner-up Rahma Giwa of Wachusett Regional, who was timed in 58.98. Lowell’s Bridget Geary was third at 59.64.
“My coaches wanted me to go a little faster, so I tried to execute that,” Bernard said. “I am not sure how well that went, but I came home really strong and really smooth, so I am happy with that. I am just happy that I am farther than I was last year at this time. That’s the biggest thing for me, being better than I was last year.”
Bernard is coming off a winter campaign where she won the 600m title at the MOC. In her final season as a high-schooler she’s hoping to add another 400m title to her resume and establish a few milestones along the way, including dipping under 55 seconds. Her PR is 55.09 from last June’s New Balance Nationals where she was ninth overall.
“That’s a big goal,” she said.”I am hoping to break it.”
In only his third time running the event, Hopkinton’s Sean Golemblewski became the state’s sixth runner to ever break 54 seconds in the 400m hurdles with a triumphant 53.95. Golemblewski was nearly flawless in his race, which he won by nearly two seconds over Acton Boxbrough’s Noah Stegmeier, who secured second with a still-impressive 55.76.
Golemblewski, the state 55m hurdle champion this winter and last year’s third-place finisher in the 110m HH at the MOC and New England Championships, was confident he could run a time similar to what he did on Saturday, especially considering he has 49-second speed for the flat-out 400m
“I knew I could go faster than the previous PR. I just haven’t really run the event much. I’m more of a 110 hurdler,” he said. “But with my 400 times I knew I could get pretty low, 54 (seconds), 53 (seconds). I am happy. It was a really good race.”
North Reading’s Giuliana Ligor won the girls’ race in 1;03.17. Weston’s Sloan Hinton was second at 1:05.17.
Perhaps the biggest upset of the meet occurred in the boys’ 100m dash. It was there that Methuen’s Darwin Jiminez improved on his previous best from last year by nearly a half a second with a time of 10.85 seconds. The Rangers’ senior had the third best time after the preliminaries with an 11.04 clocking. Newton North’s Everton Muir ran the fastest time out of the prelims at 11.01, but did not run the finals.
While an elated Jiminez couldn’t stop celebrating after pulling off the victory, he wasn’t surprised he was able to run as fast as he did on a cool night for racing.
“There’s always a little thought in my head that I am going to win,” he admitted afterwards. “I came in here very confident. I improved a lot from last year to this year. I was pretty sure I was going to give everyone competition.”
Indoor 55m champion Sarah Clafin of Pembroke won the girls’ 100m with a time of 12.21. She blazed to a state-leading and PR of 12.11 in the prelims. Clafin beat a talented field, finishing ahead of Concord-Carlisle’s Julienne Warner (second, 12.32) and last year’s state champion Elliana Tweedie of Westford Academy (third, 12.53).
Winning the respective boys’ and girls’ 200m titles were Newton North’s Myles Scott (22.06) and Tewksbury’s Javani Santos (25.31).
Acton-Boxborough’s Christoph Osselmann-Chai soared to a height of 14 feet to earn gold in the pole vault. Osselman’s effort was a PR by a foot! Finishing second was top seed Alan Nguyen of Westborough at 13-6.
“I was felling pretty nervous about this meet. I had a rough week at practices and not really getting the jumps I wanted to,” he said. “This meet for me was just full steam and do whatever I can to get some PRs. I just dialed in. I has some really great competition with Alan from Westborough and other guys. They definitely drove me to a massive PR, and I’m happy about that.”
The girls’ pole vault at the MOC could certainly create some excitement. After Saturday’ night’s meet, we now have two athletes that have cleared 12 feet or higher. Westborough’s Melinda Haagensen became the latest with a big-time PR of 12-4. Haagensen had a best by nearly a foot. She went into the meet with a previous best of 11-6 from her runner-up finish at last year’s MOC.
Norwell triple-jumper Lily MacDonald, the No. 3 seed, posted a mild upset with a season best leap of 37-5. MacDonald, a second-place finisher at the MOC, was consistent from the beginning with 36-footers for her first five jumps and her winning distance coming on her sixth and last attempt.
“I usually jump the farthest on my last one because of the adrenaline,” she said.
In the boys’ triple jump, St. John’s Prep’s Tireni Asenuga went 43-5.75 for the win.
The boys’ 800m was overloaded with talent. Eighteen runners in the field broke two minutes at Weston with Concord-Carlisle’s Henry Ritchie holding off a few runners down the stretch en route to a 1:55.13 clocking . Wachusett Regional’s Dylan Brenn was second at 1:55.88. Ajay Raina of Acton Boxborough was third in 1:56.08.
It appears as though we have another top two-miler in a state that has some of the best collectively in the nation. On Saturday, Waltham’s Brendan Wilder was the surprise winner, capturing individual honors with a huge PR of 9:12.38. Harrison Dow of Concord-Carlisle (second, 9:18.26) and IIan Sherman-Kadish of Newtin South (third, 9:18.32) also broke 9:20. Wilder went into the race with a 4:21.27 best for the mile.
Ava Criniti of Lexington went sub-11 in the girls’ two mile, winning comfortably with a season best of 10:52.86.
Nashoba’s Caroline Collins won a competitive race in the girls’ mile. Collins broke the tape in 5:05.72. Billerica’s Anna McElhinney secured the two spot with a time of 5:07.14 and Cambridge Rindge & Latin’s Aoife Shovin was third at 5:09.70.